Thursday, May 14, 2015

Homicidal Aquaphobia: The Drownsman (2014)

The Drownsman (Canada, 2014)
Rating: ***1/2
Starring:  Michelle Mylett, Caroline Palmer, Gemma Bird Matheson

Slasher films are universally known for their splashy kills involving blunt objects and razor sharp edges. (Hence "slasher") The further this horror sub-genre go through the years, the bloodier and gorier the kills get; Hatchet, Laid to Rest and The Collector are some of the new age franchises that deliver the gooiest of splatter and visceral carnage, something that appease a lot of fans while turning off others. While gore is definitely something that will (and always) appease me in a slasher flick, the fact that some producers and directors out there think that messy deaths are all that matter for this sub-genre puts me in a position where I understand why there are horror fans out there getting tired of slashers.

This is also why I find The Drownsman an interesting entry.

The film focuses on Madison, a girl who gains an extreme aquaphobia after seeing a vision of a soaked corpse-like figure during a near-drowning the night she was made the Maid of Honor of her bestfriend Hannah's wedding.

When would they learn that nothing good will come from seances?
A year passes and Madison's fear prevents her from going to her Hannah's most joyous occasion, which happens to fall on a rainy day; obviously pissed and concerned, her friend gathers up their other gal pals and tries to fake a seance in order to prove Madison that there isn't anyone or anything in the water out to get her. Unfortunately, something is indeed lurking in the waters and the attempted seance somehow invoked it into hunting them down, pulling one girl at a time into its murky realm. With her friends now in dire trouble, Madison has no choice but to fight her fears and find the secrets in stopping The Drownsman.

The way I see it, The Drownsman is a workable look back at old school horror, not overly relying on gore and focusing instead on character development and some classic scares and thrills. It utilizes a supernatural slasher movie structure, giving us a menacing looking villain with a unique ability to travel and appear wherever water is and/or can be present, but the kills are bloodless (with the exception with a glass shard stabbing at the beginning of the movie) as each victim gets drowned in various means after being pulled into the killer's moist basement realm. It's is certainly a gamble among slasher fans who grew up associating the sub-genre with blood splatter and gore, but the build-up to these kills are skilled and effectively executed with practical effects. Not much to say if this is a good thing for many viewers but I myself find this a refreshing change of pace and idea among all of the chunky gore I've been seeing in my slashers lately.

Some cheese did get into the mix at times through silly scripts and some quirky characterization. Thankfully the main casts managed to pull off the odd premises with enough straight faces to keep them a likable bunch; Michelle Mylett goes to take on a classic example of a lead girl as Madison, though Caroline Palmer, as Madison's bestfriend Hannah, noticeably tackled a rather more expressive approach on her role. Some credits also goes to Ry Barrett as the titular monster; even if he spent most of his time slowly gurgling out names and look threatening in a soggy, supernatural killer kind of way, the fact that he had been doing all the water stunts in full make-up and effectively look creepy is indeed an achievement we rarely see in slasher movie nowadays.

The moist evil creature to swim your puddles!
Plot holes are, understandably in this sub-genre, ever present; how exactly did The Drownsman ended up in his state or why did Madison started seeing him after all of these years was never explained in detail. The latter, to be fair, was kinda clarified as a plot twist, but seeing the nature of this reveal, you just have to ask why it took the drenched killer that long to start haunting her? The film ends with a cliffhanger, obviously opened for a sequel, so I guess there are plans to answer these questions as a franchise? Not too sure about that but at least the film was an entertaining and well-produced round, gifted with a workable pacing, amazing camera work and well-shot lighting.

The Drowsman may as well be a welcome addition to new age slashers as not only did it tried and succeeded (at a level) to create something new out of the classic plot, but also packs enough thrills, scares, and twist to keep a fan satisfied. It may not look like much but it is a solid and well-recommended attempt.

1 female seen dead from drowning
1 male repeatedly stabbed with a glass shard, disappears
1 female drowned in a bathtub
1 female locked and drowned inside a metal coffin
1 female drowned in the lake underneath the floorboards
1 female chained by the neck and pulled into the lake, drowned
1 female drowned in a tank
Total: 7

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